Middle School Tennis
In the years following Thornton Academy’s 1889 relocation to the current Main Street campus, one could argue that Saco was the high school tennis capital of Maine. Tennis is the oldest sport at Thornton Academy and dates to the last decade of the nineteenth century. In the spring of 1893, the school offered an intramural girls tennis program--the first sport sponsored by Thornton Academy--with competition taking place on the school’s lawn. In both 1898 and 1899, TA football standout and future Thornton Athletic Hall of Famer, Walter Bradford, captured back-to-back state championships at the Bowdoin Interscholastic Tennis Tournament, earning a doubles title as a senior. In 1912 Lowell Innes of Thornton Academy duplicated that feat with a victory in the state finals at Bowdoin.
The first interscholastic tennis teams were sponsored in the late 1920’s when football coach George Martin established programs for both boys and girls. Thornton Academy reinstated tennis as a sport in 1974 after a several-decade hiatus, and has offered the program on an interscholastic level ever since. The Golden Trojans play a twelve-game regular season schedule in the competitive Southwestern Maine Activities Association. Varsity contests consist of three singles events and a pair of doubles matches. Team members who do not secure one of the top seven spots on their squad’s ladder have an opportunity to compete in junior varsity matches held in conjunction with each varsity event.
The Thornton Academy boys tennis program is currently one of the most accomplished in Class A. In the past six seasons, the squad has advanced to the regional semifinal round or beyond in the Maine Principals’ Association state team playoffs. From 2014-2016, the boys were crowned Southwestern Maine Activities Association champions on three consecutive occasions, one of only two schools in conference history to achieve that feat. From 2015-2018, Thornton Academy won forty consecutive regular season matches and, counting playoffs, forty-six in a row against conference opponents. In 2016, the Golden Trojans captured its first Class A state championship at Lewiston High School by defeating the Blue Devils.
At the same time, the Thornton Academy girls tennis program has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most competitive in the SMAA. The Golden Trojans averaged eleven wins per season from 2014-2018, including an undefeated regular season and SMAA team championship in 2017 under Coach Dan Frost. Thornton Academy has made five consecutive appearances to the regional semifinal round and was the Class A South runner-up in 2017.
The TA tennis program has produced some outstanding individual performers as well. From 2014-2017, Eva Sachs was a four-time SMAA all-star as a singles player, and led her team to a conference title. Emily Harris and Katie Senechal won the SMAA girls doubles championship in 2015. Victor Menezes (2015) and Dariy Vykhodtsev (2016, 2017) were named to the Maine Sunday Telegram All-State Team; they are arguably two of the finest players in the history of the school. Dylan Gooch and Jared Waterhouse not only scored the clinching point in the 2016 state team championship; they were also SMAA doubles champions in that year.
Thornton Academy has four recently renovated tennis courts located adjacent to Linnell Gymnasium. The tennis courts have become a centerpiece for campus life and recreation. These courts are reserved for middle school practices and home matches in the fall, and high school activities in the spring. When the courts are not being utilized for Thornton Academy athletic events, they are open for play to the public and the student body.
Practices for Thornton Academy middle school tennis begin in early September. There are no tryouts for the program; all interested middle school students may participate. Tryouts for the high school boys and girls tennis teams begin in late March. Students who are not selected for the varsity/junior varsity boys or girls teams may participate on the MAISAD team. Whereas the varsity/junior varsity teams hold practices or matches each weekday during the spring season, the MAISAD team practices twice per week and plays a modest schedule of matches against other Maine private schools.